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Unlicensed Boarding Houses for the Mentally Ill Are Often Disgraceful

I read "Slums or Salvation?" (Currents, Aug. 13) with great interest and am pleased that someone is finally starting to expose the Tucson boarding-house mess.

But the article covered only the tip of the iceberg. My son is mentally disabled and gets Supplemental Security Income support. Many mentally disabled people receive support, because their psychiatric profile indicates problems so serious that they will never hold a job. Finding jobs for clients may be a big La Frontera focus, but not for many mentally disabled clients, who often must live in boarding homes.

Your article reads as if La Frontera actually finds matches between clients and homes. In my son's situation, La Frontera gives him a list of boarding homes and puts him out on the street. They can't keep their list current; as you might suspect, unregulated boarding homes come and go, or change names, frequently because many are scamming the disabled.

The homes that my son has been in have been hovels that cram three or four residents into a single bedroom. Try keeping your cool sharing a small bathroom with a dozen other residents! Meals are as you reported: mostly slop, and often irregular. Try setting up a taco cart without being licensed or inspected! But if you serve food to people in a boarding home, it's no problem. And, all of this for only $525 a month. The last home he tried to live in had 14 residents in a three-bedroom house—meaning someone was pulling in more than $7,000 per month from an old, single-family house.

This situation is a disgrace. Homes that assist those with health or age-related mental problems must be licensed, yet homes with residents having mental or addiction problems are exempted. The city and state, by not requiring licenses, are in many cases partners in crime, helping the unscrupulous among boarding-home owners take advantage of the disabled.

Name withheld by request


Claim: Olbermann, Maddow Are Modern-Day Fascists

My response to your publication's "Tom Tomorrow" cartoon from the Aug. 13 issue, panel one: Gee. I didn't know that the Keith Olbermann show even had an audience. Its ratings are so low that they barely create an arguable blip on the Nielsen radar. This is probably because most Americans recognize propaganda when they see and hear it.

The Rachel Maddow Show, which follows Herr Olbermann, is even more smarmy and rife with partisanship. One would have to be a mental midget to imbue with any value anything she, Herr Olbermann or the likes of Bill Maher or Al Franken ever have to say.

Why do I use terms sometimes associated with "the right" for these people—"propagandists" and "herr," etc.? Because "fascism" is not the exclusive property of the right; it can come from the left OR the right. "Fascism" bespeaks any (kind of) society which strives to create a "homogeneity of thought" among its citizenry, which is what the Nazis called "Gleichschaltung," and which is the very aim of "political correctness" today.

The jack-boots of history are on the march once more. Do you hear them? Right here, right now, even in the pages of your, uh, "publication."

John Gray Wallace


If The Giving Tree Were to Go Away, Many Needy People Would Suffer

As a longtime reader, I want to thank you for the article "Doing Too Much?" (Aug. 6), but I ask you to do more. I have lived in the Toumey Park Neighborhood for 13 years and watched The Giving Tree grow from a program that feeds the poor into a de facto shelter.

I worked for more than a few years in the child-abuse prevention field. People frequently asked me how I could stand to work with parents accused of this crime. I told them that it is easy to love a child; the real challenge is to love their parents, and you simply are not doing a child a favor by disrespecting their Mom or Dad. So when Ms. Herreras (or the editor) chose to depict Libby Wright, The Giving Tree's director, as some kind of latter-day Pied Piper, well, it was just déjà vu all over again. Let's not forget: The Giving Tree is not the first residential program in the area to meet up with legal troubles, either.

You did talk to the neighborhood association president, Bob Bowers. Good job, but I think you need to put his claim that crime activity within a one-block area around the shelter increased by 52 percent into some perspective. What did that mean in real numbers? Speaking of which, I'm surprised that Jill Rich of Jewish Refugee Resettlement of Southern Arizona didn't share some info on the number of "positive outcomes" from that program. After all, that's the way the game is played. As a case manager, I spent at least 50 percent of my time documenting how I was helping people as opposed to actually helping them.

Finally, Brian Flagg from the Casa Maria meals program said it best: "If people are mad at (Libby Wright) because she's breaking a bunch of rules, well, that's probably a good thing."

I ask you to put a human face on The Giving Tree, because if this place goes down (the Giving Tree Compassionate Hope Center), I shudder to think what will happen to all of the people who depend on it. In the words of a Methodist hymn that inspired me, "Some mother she rocked him, her little darling to sleep, but they left him to die like a tramp on the street." Remember, we need to love Mom and Dad, not just the baby Jesus.

Sherry Ivester

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